Friday, September 12, 2014

DRAGNET: The Big Cod, August 2, 1951

Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday
The evolution of detective programs on old-time radio began in the late twenties when most original detectives were inspired by the murder mystery stage plays often dramatized on stage on Broadway. By the early thirties, Philo Vance and Charlie Chan began inspiring imitations and programs of their own... sometimes adapted from the novels themselves -- others to help promote major motion pictures.

In 1946, CBS began offering The Adventures of Sam Spade and those early adventures revealed a different kind of gumshoe -- one who stole money out of a dead man's wallet and shot a crooked thief (a woman) in the back when she tried to escape. Radio listeners (and script writers) took note and began their own imitations of the Sam Spade series, more tame than the Sam Spade character. By 1947, radio detectives became a common staple in network broadcasting -- so much so that concerned parents formed organizations in an effort to curb the vicious murders that intrigued impressionistic young minds. But after you listen to a dozen of those programs -- Philo Vance, Boston Blackie, Nero Wolfe, Richard Diamond, etc. -- the conclusion is the same. The detective programs are relatively the same -- each with their own variation-on-a-theme.

Then came Jack Webb and Dragnet, which was far more original than any detective program on the airwaves. So original that it is difficult to name another radio program that attempted to imitate Dragnet. (It is far easier to name a number of programs that spoofed Dragnet.) Many collectors today know of a handful of "lost" episodes -- lost being defined as episodes in which a recording is not known to exist. For all you Dragnet fans, here is a scan of a Dragnet script for a lost episode. Enjoy!

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